FCC Approves New TiVo Technology Feature

In its decision, the Federal Communications Commission said the new TiVo feature has enough protections in place to prevent mass distribution of copyrighted material.

The technology would allow a TiVo subscriber to download broadcasts to a computer and send copies of recorded shows over the Internet to an office or home or to a small circle of friends, as long as they are on the subscriber's registered account.

The Motion Picture Association of America, the National Football League and others complained that the new service would allow the 1.6 million TiVo subscribers to redistribute shows over the Internet to virtually anyone, anywhere.

The NFL is especially worried about the potential for users to beam football games to viewers in blacked-out areas where the games aren't broadcast. The NFL does not allow local broadcasts unless the home team sells out.

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The league signaled it may sue over the decision.

``We'll confer with the other concerned parties and take whatever steps are appropriate to protect our interests,'' NFL spokesman Seth Palansky said.

TiVo's machines let viewers record programs onto a large-capacity hard drive rather than a videocassette, giving viewers many more options. For example, they can watch an earlier part of a show, game or movie while recording later segments.

The technology that TiVo asked the FCC to consider recognizes the so-called ``broadcast flag,'' which the agency approved in late 2003. The flag is an electronic signal that tells digital video recorders to encrypt shows when recording. The encryption prevents widespread distribution over the Internet.

TiVo officials said that means movies and sports broadcasts can't be sent to mass audiences.

``TiVo has always tried to maintain an appropriate balance between consumer interests and the rights of content providers,'' said Mike Ramsay, CEO of the Alviso, Calif.-based company.

The new technology, which TiVo refers to as ``remote access,'' could be included in a service called TiVoToGo that the company plans to offer this fall. That will let a user transfer recorded shows to a laptop, so the subscriber can take the shows on the road. But the TiVoToGo service currently does not allow for Internet sharing, the company said.

Also Wednesday, the FCC approved a number of other proposed technologies from Microsoft, Sony and others that all aim to prevent piracy by recognizing the broadcast flag.